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A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance 1) John Grisham 2022/8/8 14:24:28

"Just me and the deputies. I think we can keep it under wraps until after the trial, but I can't guarantee anything."

"I understand. Try your best."

"I know you will, Ozzie. I appreciate you."

Jake drove to the office, made the coffee and lay on the couch in his office. He wanted a quick nap, but sleep was impossible. His eyes burned, but he could not close them. He stared at the ceiling fan.

"Mr. Brigance," Ethel called over the intercom.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of his subconscious, Jake heard himself being paged/.He bolted upright. "Yes!" he yelled.

"Judge Noose is on the phone."

"Okay, okay," he mumbled as he staggered to his desk. He checked his watch. Nine A.M. He had slept for an hour.

"Good morning, Judge," he said cheerfully, trying to sound alert and awake.

"Good morning, Jake. How are you?"

"Just fine, Judge. Busy getting ready for the big trial."

"I thought so. Jake, what is your schedule today?"

What's today, he thought. He grabbed his appointment book. "Nothing but office work."

"Good. I would like to have lunch with you at my home. Say around eleven-thirty."

"I would be delighted, Judge. What's the occasion?"

"I want to discuss the Hailey case."

"Fine, Judge. I'll see you at eleven-thirty."

The Nooses lived in a stately antebellum home off the town square in Chester. The home had been in the wife's family for over a century, and although it could stand some maintenance and repair, it was in decent condition. Jake had never been a guest in the house, and had never met Mrs. Noose, although he had heard she was a snobby blue blood whose family at one time had money but lost it. She was as unattractive as Ichabod, and Jake wondered what the children looked like. She was properly polite when she met Jake at

the door and attempted small talk as she led him to the patio, where His Honor was drinking iced tea and reviewing correspondence. A maid was preparing a small table nearby.

"Good to see you, Jake," Ichabod said warmly. "Thanks for coming over."

"My pleasure, Judge. Beautiful place you have here."

They discussed the Hailey trial over soup and chicken salad sandwiches. Ichabod was dreading the ordeal, although he didn't admit it. He seemed tired, as if the case was already a burden. He surprised Jake with an admission that he detested Buckley. Jake said he felt the same way.

"Jake, I'm perplexed over this venue ruling," he said. "I've studied your brief and Buckley's brief, and I've researched the law myself. It's a tough question. Last weekend I attended a judges' conference on the Gulf Coast, and I had a few drinks with Judge Denton on the Supreme Court. He and I were in law school together, and we were colleagues in the state senate. We're very close. He's from Dupree County in south Mississippi, and he says that everybody down there talks about the case. People on the street ask him how he's gonna rule if the case winds up on appeal. Everybody's got an opinion, and that's almost four hundred miles away. Now, if I agree to change venue, where do we go? We can't leave the state, and I'm convinced that everyone has not only heard about your client, but already prejudged him. Would you agree?"

"Well, there's been a lot of publicity," Jake said carefully.

"Talk to me, Jake. We're not in court. That's why I invited you here. I want to pick your brain. I know there's been a lot of publicity. If we move it, where do we go?"

"How about the delta?"

Noose smiled. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"Of course. We could pick us a good jury over there. One that would truly understand the issues."

"Yeah, and one that would be half black."

"I hadn't thought about that."

"Do you really believe those folks haven't already prejudged this defendant?"

"Did Judge Denton have a suggestion?"

"Not really. We discussed the court's traditional refusal to allow changes of venue except in the most heinous of cases. It's a difficult issue with a notorious crime that arouses passion both for and against the defendant. With television and all the press nowadays, these crimes are instant news, and everyone knows the details long before the trial. And this case tops them all. Even Denton admitted he'd never seen a case with this much publicity, and he admitted it would be impossible to find a fair and impartial jury anywhere in Mississippi. Suppose I leave it in Ford County and your man is convicted. Then you appeal claiming venue should have been changed. Denton indicated he would be sympathetic with my decision not to move it. He thinks a majority of the court would uphold my denial of the venue change. Of course, that's no guarantee, and we discussed it over several long drinks. Would you like a drink?"

"I just don't see any reason to move the trial from Clanton. If we did, we'd be fooling ourselves if we thought we could find twelve people who are undecided about Mr. Hailey's guilt."

"Sounds like you've already made up your mind, Judge."

"I have. We're not changing venue. The trial will be held in Clanton. I'm not comfortable with it, but I see no reason to move the trial. Besides, I like Clanton. It's close to home and the air conditioning works in the courthouse."

Noose reached for a file and found an envelope. "Jake, this is an order, dated today, overruling the request to change venue. I've sent a copy to Buckley, and there's a copy for you. The original is in here, and I would appreciate you filing this with the clerk in Clanton."

"I just hope I'm doing the right thing. I've really struggled with this."

"It's a tough job," Jake offered, attempting sympathy.

Noose called the maid and ordered a gin and tonic. He insisted that Jake view his rose garden, and they spent an hour in the sprawling rear lawn admiring His Honor's flow-

ers. Jake thought of Carla, and Hanna, and his home, and the dynamite, but gallantly remained interested in Ichabod's handiwork.

Friday afternoons often reminded Jake of law school, when, depending on the weather, he and his friends would either group in their favorite bar in Oxford and guzzle happy-hour beer and debate their new-found theories of law or curse the insolent, arrogant, terroristic law professors, or, if the weather was warm and sunny, pile the beer in Jake's well-used convertible Beetle and head for the beach at Sardis Lake, where the women from sorority row plastered their beautiful, bronze bodies with oil and sweated in the sun and coolly ignored the catcalls from the drunken law students and fraternity rats. He missed those innocent days. He hated law school-every law student with any sense hated law school-but he missed the friends and good times, especially the Fridays. He missed the pressureless lifestyle, although at times the pressure had seemed unbearable, especially during the first year when the professors were more abusive than normal. He missed being broke, because when he had nothing he owed nothing and most of his classmates were in the same boat. Now that he had an income he worried constantly about mortgages, the overhead, credit cards, and realizing the American dream of becoming affluent. Not wealthy, just affluent. He missed his Volkswagen because it had been his first new car, a gift at high school graduation, and it was paid for, unlike the Saab. He missed being single, occasionally, although he was happily married. And he missed beer, either from a pitcher, can, or bottle. It didn't matter. He had been a social drinker, only with friends, and he spent as much time as possible with his friends, He didn't drink every day in law school, and he seldom got drunk. But there had been several painful, memorable hangovers.

Then came Carla. He met her at the beginning of his last semester, and six months later they married. She was beautiful, and that's what got his attention. She was quiet, and a little snobby at first, like most of the wealthy sorority girls at Ole Miss. But he found her to be warm and personable and lacking in self-confidence. He had never under-

stood how someone as beautiful as Carla could be insecure. She was a Dean's List scholar in liberal arts with no intention of ever doing more than teaching school for a few years. Her family had money, and her mother had never worked. This appealed to Jake-the family money and the absence of a career ambition. He wanted a wife who would stay home and stay beautiful and have babies and not try to wear the pants. It was love at first sight.

But she frowned on drinking, any type of drinking. Her father drank heavily when she was a child, and there were painful memories. So Jake dried out his last semester in law school and lost fifteen pounds. He looked great, felt great, and he was madly in love. But he missed beer.

There was a country grocery a few miles out of Chester with a Coors sign in the window. Coors had been his favorite in law school, although at that time it was not for sale east of the river. It was a delicacy at Ole Miss, and the bootlegging of Coors had been profitable around the campus. Now that it was available everywhere most folks had returned to Budweiser.

It was Friday, and hot. Carla was nine hundred miles away. He had no desire to go to the office, and anything there could wait until tomorrow. Some nut just tried to kill his family and remove his landmark from the National Register of Historic Places. The biggest trial of his career was ten days away. He was not ready.and the pressure was mounting. He had just lost his most critical pretrial motion. And he was thirsty. Jake stopped and bought a six-pack of Coors.

There was only one place to go in his condition. Not home, not the office, certainly not the courthouse to file Ichabod's villainous order. He parked the Saab behind the nasty little Porsche and glided up the sidewalk with cold beer in hand. As usual, Lucien was rocking slowly on the front porch, drinking and reading a treatise on the insanity defense. He closed the book and, noticing the beer, smiled at his former associate. Jake just grinned at him.

"What's the occasion, Jake?"

"Nothing, really. Just got thirsty."

"I see. What about your wife?"

"She doesn't tell me what to do. I'm my own man. I'm the boss. If I want beer, I'll drink some beer, and she'll say nothing." Jake took a long sip.

"She must be outta town."

"When did she leave?"

"Six this morning. Flew from Memphis with Hanna. She'll stay with her parents in Wilmington until the trial's over. They've got a fancy little beach house where they spend their summers."

"She left this morning, and you're drunk by mid-afternoon."

"I'm not drunk," Jake answered. "Yet."

"How long you been drinkin'?"

"Coupla hours. I bought a six-pack when I left Noose's house around one-thirty. How long have you been drinking?"

"I normally drink my breakfast. Why were you at his house?"

"We discussed the trial over lunch. He refused to change venue."

"You heard me. The trial will be in Clanton."

Lucien took a drink and rattled his ice. "Sallie!" he screamed.

"Did he give any reason?"

"Yeah. Said it would be impossible to find jurors anywhere who hadn't heard of the case."

"I told you so. That's a good common sense reason not to move it, but it's a poor legal reason. Noose is wrong."

Sallie returned with a fresh drink and took Jake's beer to the refrigerator. Lucien took a slug and smacked his lips. He wiped his mouth with his arm, and took another long drink.

"You know what that means, don't you?" he asked.

"Sure. An all-white jury."

"That, plus a reversal on appeal if he's convicted."

"Don't bet on it. Noose has already consulted with the Supreme Court. He thinks the Court will affirm him if challenged. He thinks he's on solid ground."

"He's an idiot. I can show him twenty cases that say the trial should be moved. I think he's afraid to move it."

"Why would Noose be afraid?"

"He's taking some heat."

Lucien admired the golden liquid in his large glass and slowly stirred the ice cubes with a finger. He grinned and looked as though he knew something but wouldn't tell unless he was begged.

"From who?" Jake demanded, glaring at his friend with shiny, pink eyes.

"Buckley," Lucien said smugly.

"Buckley," Jake repeated. "I don't understand."

"I knew you wouldn't."

"Do you mind explaining?"

"I guess I could. But you can't repeat it. It's very confidential. Came from good sources."

"Who are your sources?" Jake insisted.

"I said I can't tell. Won't tell. Okay?"

"How can Buckley put pressure on Noose?"

"If you'll listen, I'll tell you."

"Buckley has no influence over Noose. Noose despises him. Told me so himself. Today. Over lunch."

"Then how can you say Noose is feeling some heat from Buckley?"

"If you'll shut up, I'll tell you."

Jake finished a beer and called for Sallie.

"You know what a cutthroat and political whore Buck-ley is."

"You know how bad he wants to win this trial. If he wins, he thinks it will launch his campaign for attorney general."